Special Requests are Always Welcome!

From time to time we get requests for products that aren’t available on the website anymore.

There are some items that, unfortunately, we can no longer offer (ex. water bottles, lunch boxes, pillows, and banners).

But there are LOTS of items that we’re happy to print upon request!  For example:

  • sibling notepads
  • sibling note cards
  • mommy calling cards
  • invitations
  • birth announcements

We’re always happy to accommodate these requests!  Just shoot us an email to let us know what you’d like.

Also, we love special requests!  For example, we’re happy to add glasses or freckles to an illustration, use a different font, or put cursive handwriting practice on the back side of a place mat instead of print handwriting. Just email us to let us know what you have in mind!

S’mores Valentine’s Day Treats

I’m so happy with how my daughter’s Valentine’s Day treats turned out and how easy it was! After looking at Pinterest together for ideas, she wanted to make S’mores cookie bars, but then I remembered that Trader Joe’s has something called Smashing S’mores, and luckily she was just as excited about using those!

I made some personalized labels for her to put on cellophane bags, and we put two S’mores inside each bag. We had tried one plain before packaging them up, and then when we were done we tried microwaving them for 6 seconds like the package suggested… holy cow, that took it to a whole other level! So I made some labels for the back, too, to let everyone know to microwave them.

I’d already been thinking about offering treat bags with my Valentine’s Day gift labels next year, but now I’m excited about making some “themed” labels like these to go with specific treats. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

Lots of New Products Coming Soon!

This is a little embarrassing to admit, but last month I attended my very FIRST trade show since starting sarah + abraham seven years ago! After waffling back and forth about whether or not to attend, I finally decided to go for it, and I’m SO GLAD I DID!

I ended up investing in some serious new equipment that will enable me to start making a whole bunch of new products in house. This is something I’ve really struggled with over the past few years. Part of me wants to outsource everything and keep things really simple, but the other part of me wants more control over quality and when orders are shipped.

The trade show was 3 hours away, and, amazingly, I met a vendor that’s located only about six miles from my house! They’ve been super helpful setting up the equipment for me, and they provided a full day of training on how to use everything. We also make regular trips to their storefront to ask questions and pick up new materials to try out.

I’ve always just used the internet for equipment and supply research in the past, so it’s been amazing to see how much more efficient and helpful it is to talk to people in person and show them what I’m having trouble with.

I was pretty overwhelmed when I first started using the new equipment, and the past few weeks have been full of frustration, but I feel like we’ve finally turned a corner. We have the materials and processes all figured out for a bunch of new products that I’m super excited about. I really love how the samples are turning out!

I wish I could share everything with you right now, but there’s still a lot more work to do with setting up templates, product photography, product descriptions, etc. I do have two new products that I’ll be launching later this week, and then after that I hope to launch a couple of new products each month for the next few months.

As I begin sharing these new products, I’d REALLY appreciate your feedback, especially any suggestions for similar products that you’d like to see me offer.

New! Niseemade for sarah + abraham

I’m thrilled to introduce a brand new collection called Niseemade featuring artwork created exclusively for sarah + abraham by illustrator Denise Holmes.

I’ve been a fan of Denise’s work for several years, so it’s really exciting for me to be working with her! She lives in Chicago, so I was able to meet her in person, and she couldn’t be more delightful. I’m absolutely thrilled with the illustrations she came up with!I’ve started out by putting her whimsical designs on my plates, bowls, place mats, cups, note cards and gift labels. Each item in the Niseemade collection can be customized by selecting from six girl hairstyles, five boy hairstyles, and four hair colors.

In addition to the boy and girl options, she has created some really great themes including butterflies, flowers/bumblebees, fruits, stars/planets, cars, boats, and paper airplanes.

Creating the templates, image preview elements, and product listings as well as creating and photographing the samples has been a huge undertaking, but it’s been a labor of love. I really hope you enjoy this new collection as much as I do!

New Envelope Color: Fuchsia

Strawberry has been my most popular envelope color over the years. In fact it was a strawberry envelope that Sarah Jane blogged about over 4 years ago that led me to Paper Source envelopes and the decision to offer colored envelopes instead of white. So when I found out a few weeks ago that Paper Source was discontinuing strawberry envelopes, I was really bummed. But I ordered a box of fuchsia, and they’re actually quite similar, just a little brighter and a little pinker.

Today I’ve been working on updating the product images and envelope options on my website. I still have a couple of boxes of strawberry left, so if you’d like to order any note cards with strawberry envelopes in the next week or so, just let me know in the Additional Instructions field when you place your order. Thanks!

home office update

When I last shared photos of my home office in 2009, it looked like this:

Jen was working at my house three days a week, and all sarah + abraham paper goods (note cards, notepads, stickers, art prints, etc.) were being printed and shipped from my house. I had lots of Ikea furniture (including the VARDE kitchen island in the photo on the left), curtains from Target, basic office chairs, and lots of wall shelves, which were all perfectly functional items, but not very pretty.

Over the last couple of years I’ve made some big changes, and today I’m so happy with how my new cozy home office has come together:

If you’re wondering where all the supplies went, they’re mostly all in Jen’s own home office now where she does most of the order fulfillment for sarah + abraham.

As for the furniture, I had my eye on the Pottery Barn Bedford office furniture collection for a long time. When I was finally ready to buy it, I had a Pottery Barn design consultant come over to help me plan the space, and she suggested the Keira rug, Peyton drapes, and rattan desk chairs. I don’t think I would have picked out those items myself, but I love how it all came together.

The tree art print is by Ryan Kapp. I purchased it at the Chicago Renegade Craft Fair last year, and I’m really happy that it works so nicely in my office.

I replaced the Ikea kitchen island with the Kavari media-storage console from Crate & Barrel. It only holds about half as much stuff, but I love the warmth of the color.

I’m especially proud of my little gallery of frames. I’ve always admired the frame galleries that John & Sherry of Young House Love have created in their houses. Mine is on a much smaller scale, but I’m so happy with how it turned out. It includes art by Heather Ross, Rifle Paper Co., June Craft, Decoylab, and White Nest.

And then on this wall I framed a few of my favorite photos from our family portrait session with Julie Chen.

even better than facebook & twitter!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, “e-pals” are great, but getting together in person with fellow designers / entrepreneurs is so much better! Hanging out with the group of women pictured above (and a couple of others who aren’t pictured) is one of my very favorite ways to spend an afternoon!

Jen of The Clever Bobbin, who also works part-time for sarah + abraham and sews pillows and banners for me, is in the top left corner. I’m standing next to her in a pink shirt. On my other side is Debbie of Penelope’s Press, and Meg of olliegraphic is next to her on the far right. Heather of Neemies is in a striped shirt on the left. Julie of Life Verse Design is standing in front of her. And Megan of Silhouette Blue is in the front row, on the right.

If you have an Etsy shop or website and work from home, I can’t say enough about how valuable it is to not only make friends online but also get together with them in person whenever possible.

relentless self-improvement

I love the line from Austin Powers International Man of Mystery that starts out, “My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium…” When my husband and I heard it for the first time, we both laughed out loud and commented to each other on what a great phrase that was, “relentlessly self-improving”.

At the time we hadn’t had children yet and spent a lot of time browsing in bookstores and buying all kinds of how-to and self-improvement books… health & nutrition, fitness, home improvement, career advice, and on and on.

I was always trying to figure out what I should be doing, and I was all over the place… open a bakery? learn how to build websites? become an architect? a lawyer? a psychologist? a nutritionist?

A few months after starting sarah + abraham I realized that I was finally doing exactly what I should be doing. Now all of that relentless self-improvement is focused on sarah + abraham (well, most of it!)

Last week I realized that I’ve been spending more and more time emailing proofs to customers, and it sure would be nice for that process to be more automated. Also, a lot of times when I send emails with attachments they go straight to spam folders. So I emailed Arianne at Aeolidia asking if she could help me out.

She created the perfect form for me where I can upload the image, enter the order # and customer name, and an email is automatically sent to the customer with a link for them to view their proof.
When they click on the link, this is the screen that it takes them to:
Then I receive an email with their approval or comments. I love it! Little improvements like these make such a difference when it’s something that you’re doing over and over again, day after day.

2009 year-end review

2009 was a really good year for sarah + abraham! Here’s a look back at the highlights…
In January my bird note cards were featured in a Real Simple online article, 5 Bridesmaid gifts under $50, and then my calling cards were featured in the May issue of Real Simple. I ended up with over $4,000 in sales from just those two features!
In March I launched a new collection that I was super excited about, but it turned out to not be as popular as I thought it would be. I ended up retiring several of the items pretty quickly, and only a few of the designs have turned out to be consistently good sellers. I learned a great lesson from that experience that I need to stick with the elements that my customers love most about my products and not stray too far from that when adding new products.
In April I updated the look of my website and improved the navigation features, which significantly cut down on the number of questions I receive about options.
In May I started offering canvas prints. They haven’t been as well received as I had hoped, but sales are picking up, and I think they’re a nice complement to the rest of my products.
In June I began offering water bottles, which have been a big hit! Dacia at Lima Bean Kids has been amazingly helpful, first sharing the vendor who printed water bottles for her, and then when that vendor didn’t work out for either of us, sharing the new one she found, who has been absolutely wonderful to work with.
In July I began offering fabric clutches and calling card cases. They haven’t sold as well as I had hoped, but again, I feel like they compliment my other products nicely and make a nice gift set with note cards or calling cards.

The biggest event of the year for me was hiring a part-time employee in August. I placed an ad on monster.com hoping for nothing more than someone willing to print/fold/cut/package orders. I was completely overwhelmed by the response I got. I received 380 resumes in 10 days, interviewed six candidates, and wanted to hire all six of them! I couldn’t believe how talented they were, each with a slightly different background (photography, illustration, marketing, etc.) but still willing to start out filling orders.

Jen, who has a marketing background, has been a perfect fit! I love handing off the tasks that I don’t want to do, but more than that, it’s been great to bounce ideas off her and brainstorm together. She has had some really good ideas and helps me stay focused. For the first time ever I have a strategic plan, and we’re being proactive about marketing and PR.
In September I made some more changes to the design and navigation features of my website. I love having more product photographs on the homepage and being able to view products by either design collection or product category.

I also started sending out a monthly newsletter, which has been really well received. In 2008 only 15% of my sales came from repeat customers, but during the second half of 2009, 30% of my sales came from repeat customers!
In October I began offering custom stamps from PSA Essentials. I haven’t sold a whole lot of them, and they don’t have a very big profit margin, but it’s nice to be able to offer them, and it’s super easy to fill those orders.

I also offered 15% off Christmas items in October in the hopes of spreading out my Christmas sales a little. My sales from November 1 – December 19 (13% of the year) accounted for 28% of my total sales (compared to 31% last year), so I think it helped a little, but not much. I estimate that about 80 customers ordered earlier than they otherwise would have.
In November I launched my new olliegraphic collection, which has done really well. In just the first two months olliegraphic items accounted for 22% of my sales, and Meg has been great to work with. She’s such a talented illustrator, and her style fits so nicely with the rest of my products. I also think that using the same color scheme for both my silhouette line and the olliegraphic line really helped to tie everything together visually on my website.

The holiday season was a completely different experience this year with Jen here helping me. In my 2008 year-end review I mentioned that on my busiest day I had 21 sales and that I had 15 days with 13 or more sales. I was completely overwhelmed and exhausted.

This year on my busiest day I had 46 sales and 35 days with 15 or more sales. But it was totally under control, and no big deal at all! It never really got to be too much. There was a day when I had my two biggest sales ever back-to-back, but Jen took a bunch of work home, and came back with it all completed the next day. During our busiest week we worked 82 hours combined, so I definitely couldn’t have done it all on my own!

Which brings us to the beginning of 2010. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m planning on launching a new blog in February. I’ve really thrown myself into the project with a lot of help from Jen and my husband, Mike. We’ve made a lot of progress that I wouldn’t have made on my own, and I’m really excited about the direction the project is heading! (more on that in a future post…)

Bookmark and Share

sarah + abraham workspace

I’m so excited that Jennifer will be starting tomorrow! Here are some new pictures of my workspace that I took today. This room used to be a playroom, and then I converted it to an office about two years ago when I moved my computer out of the cloffice.

The idea was that 1/3 of the room would be workspace for me, 1/3 for my husband, and 1/3 for the kids. The kids’ craft area didn’t last long at all, and my husband’s desk was quickly relegated to a small space in a corner of the room.

Now I’ve taken over the room completely, and my poor husband has been banished to the cloffice. Well, I moved everything from his desk and shelves into the cloffice, but he won’t actually be working in there, so it’s not really as bad as it sounds.